All playoffs long, Ryan McAlary stepped up whenever the Shoreham-Wading River baseball team needed him to.
So when the Wildcat leadoff hitter smashed the second pitch of Sunday’s Class A Long Island Championship game over the fence and off the Farmingdale State College scoreboard it was easy to feel good about his team’s chances against Nassau champ Division High of Levittown.
Then the magic ran out.
The Blue Dragons put together a four-run third inning off McAlary, who started at pitcher for Shoreham-Wading River, and the Wildcats never responded in a 7-1 loss.
“I remember thinking ‘It’s gonna be our day,'” said SWR coach Sal Mignano of the momentum felt from McAlary’s leadoff home run that put the Wildcats immediately ahead 1-0.
They wouldn’t score again.
Shoreham’s best opportunity to add runs came with McAlary back at the plate and shortstop Kevin Davis on first base down 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning. McAlary smoked a ball to the left-center field gap, but Division center fielder John Cruz made a spectacular diving grab to end the inning.
“I knew it wasn’t hit as hard as his home run, but it was hit pretty well,” Mignano said. “Then I see out of the corner of my eye the center fielder comes in flying.”
Cruz was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. He finished the contest 2-for-4 with a run scored.
If he was the most outstanding, starting pitcher Sean Abbate was the runner-up. The right-handed senior threw a complete game five-hitter, striking out six.
The big blow in the third came off the bat of Division cleanup hitter Matthew Santorufo, who smacked a two-run single to left field to put his team ahead for good at 3-1. He’d add another RBI hit in a two-run fifth for the Blue Dragons (19-6).
McAlary, who pitched a two-hitter earlier in the playoffs against Sayville and knocked in the game-winning run in the county championship Thursday, didn’t have the same level of success Sunday.
He was responsible for the first six Division runs in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five.
Reliever Dan Sperruzzi gave up the final run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“I didn’t have a negative word to say to these kids after the game,” Mignano said. “We lost to the better team. They were better than us today.”
McAlary, Davis, Mike O’Reilly, Jono Criscito and Andrew Nicchi had the only hits for SWR (21-5). The leadoff home run was the Cats’ only extra-base hit of the day.
The game was delayed for about 10 minutes in the first inning when Division head coach Tom Tuttle asked the umpires to examine O’Reilly’s bat. He was allowed to use it and he smacked his single in that at-bat.
Shoreham-Wading River had last appeared in a Long Island final in 2002. They last won an L.I. title in 1987, when they went on to win states. The star of that team, former big leaguer Keith Osik, now the coach at Farmingdale State College, was in attendance Sunday.